An Open Letter to Territorials

What use will it be to us to conquer the enemy without, if our creditors put us in bonds for debts we have contracted ? What advantage shall we have in strengthening the empire of Rome if we cannot preserve our personal liberty ?—(Dionysius of Halicarnassus.)

An Old Friend with a New Face
Fellow Workers,—It is said there is nothing new under the sun. If the saying has become trite, it may still have so much of a substratum of truth as to be adjudged not ill-founded as sayings go. At all events, the question contained in the above lines, 400 years older than our calendar, finds a curious parallel to-day.

Under the “kings” Roman citizens were compelled to serve in the campaigns at their own expense. The condition fell severely upon those of small means, who were forced to borrow money to support their families in their absence. Returning from the field, their property was seized by their creditors, and they their children, sold into slavery to liquidate their debts. On the other hand the spoils of war were unequally distributed, and even such of the conquered lands as law prescribed were to belong to the State were filched by the powerful. What wonder that the poor refused to serve, crying : “What use will it be to us to conquer the enemies without, if our creditors put us in bonds for the debts we have contracted ?”

To those of you, fellow workingmen, who take up arms and practice the art of war from high ideals of duty, I submit the above point of history, asking that you will consider if similar questions may not he propounded in your case. Those ancient warriors, whose achievements stand out as one of the wonders of history in a way that is utterly without parallel—they asked themselves a trenchant question. No modern warrior can have drunk deeper from the cup of “glory” than that old Roman who complained that he, who was born free, who had shed lustre on Roman arms in twenty-eight battles, where he had several times gained the prize for valour, being in his old age constrained to borrow money to pay the taxes, and having nothing left to pay his debts with, was reduced, with his children, to slavery, and disgracefully beaten. Yet such men as he, hungry in a plethora of “glory,” asked the profane, earthy question, what had it profited them ?

The Doctrine of Self Interest
Granting the essentially materialist nature of the Roman character, the questions are not unworthy of new application, even by this most aesthetic of people in this least prosaic of times. Wise men will demand that the object of all their activities shall be their own advantage. The lifeboatman may find the satisfaction he derives from following his humanitarian instincts a perfectly sound reason for taking the risk, and one that will stand the most searching scrutiny of “narrow self-interest.”

If the idea of glory, of military duty bravely performed, of tests of manhood endured and triumphantly survived, are in themselves sufficient compensation for the risk and exertion of warfare, then they are to the individual concerned sufficient warrant for his bearing arms. If the fascination of dangerous pursuits, of playing hide-and-seek with death, or even the “sporting” love of butchering other men without getting hung for it—if any or all of these afford equivalence for the discomforts and penalties of their attainment, good, by all means let us take up arms and fight, upon any pretext—or none.

But let us make sure that we understand not only the value of our reaping but the cost also of our sowing. Let us see to it that we are not trying to obtain sustenance by the unsatisfying process of chewing a rainbow, or to fill ourselves with meat and drink by the infantile delusion of sucking our own thumbs.

No Rights No Duties
The commonly expressed reason for bearing arms is that of duty to one’s country. The term duty, however, in so far as it signifies a moral, and therefore, voluntary action, implies rights also. It cannot be compelled—even by the deprivation of rights, for an element of trust must exist with a moral obligation, and a duty in the moral sense is a moral obligation. Directly force is relied upon, as a contingency however remote, the element of trust is extinguished and evasion is assumed on the one side and by every logical standard justified on the other. As to the rights “our” country affords us, is there any jot or tittle of these that any foreigner may not acquire by a short residential qualification and the payment of about £5 ? £5 ! Is that the extent of “our stake in the country,” the extreme value of the “rights” which must be requited at peril of life and limb ? Yet what else is there ? We hear much of the duty of defending hearth and home, but even while we do so ac¬cumulating rent imperils both.

“Home !”—the term has lost its significance. The sense of home felt by the feudal serf in the secure tenure of his hovel, is foreign to us. How many of us dare stir a finger to make the houses we live in more beautiful (or less ugly) or have heart to give a pennyworth of material to improve a dwelling which we can never forget we hold on sufferance from week to week ? An do we take up arms to defend with our lives that upon which we would not expend a pennyworth of wood or a spoonful of paint ?

It may be accredited to those of you who are most serious in the work you have put your hands to, that you really do believe that there is an antagonism of interests between the different races of the earth. You have been told so so often, that it is hardly to be wondered at that many give faith to the idea. And that interests must be fought for has the support of all experience and the assent of all practical men.

But if logic upholds those who, believing that their interests are opposed to those of people of other nationality, are found armed to maintain those interests, caution demands that their belief shall be well grounded. Let us inquire if it is so in this case.

Race or Class Cleavage
All the material wealth of the workers as a class comes from the sale of their labour power, and first takes the form of wages. Given constant purchasing power, the more the wages amount to the more necessaries’and comforts the recipients of wages can obtain and the better their economic position is.

The interests of the workers, then, appear from this to be to obtain the highest possible rate of wages, together with security of employment, which, under present conditions, may be taken to mean security of livelihood.

Now the common idea is that if Britain could retain possession of the markets of the world wages would rule high and the unemployed “problem” be solved. But this is entirely fallacious, as I shall endeavour to show.

The mainspring of modem production is not utility, but profit. A man is engaged in producing fabric which is sold by weight. He works for wages, and, as far as his motives go, it is merely incidental that he is producing a thing of utility. This is shown if we follow the fabric after it leaves his hands, for then other men, actuated by the same motives, load it with earths and minerals, which in no respect add anything to its utility as a fabric, though undoubtedly increasing its value as an instrument of cheating.

Were utility the object of production the fabric would go forth to its purpose without this—often deleterious and unhealthy—adulteration. The universality of the practice in every sphere of manufacture, shows that in neither the case of the wage earner nor the wage payer is production carried on for utility, while all experience supports the argument that the incentive of capitalist production is profit.

Value is added to raw material by labour. That added value divides into two streams. One stream flows back to the worker in the form of wages ; the other flows into the coffers of the master class in the form of profit (including rent and interest). Every driblet of the wealth the workers receive as wages, as also every drop of that which is sucked up by the capitalist class as profit, is exuded from the perspiring skin of the working class. There is no other source of value, therefore the proportion of the one form must decrease as the other increases. In other words, if the volume of value created be constant, an increase in wages can only take place by reducing profit and vice-versa.

The Capitalist Incentive
Now two things are plain to the meanest intellect. Wages must continue (under the present system) to be paid, for they represent the sustenance of the workers, without which it is physically impossible for them to continue to produce ; secondly, profit must continue to be afforded to the possessors of the means of production, or they will not allow those means to be used.

What, under these conditions, would result from a “solution” of the unemployed “problem” along the lines of finding work and wages for every worker who is willing to work ? The elimination of competition would result in a rise of wages that would reduce profit to the vanishing point, and capitalist production, deprived of its sole incentive, would come to standstill, like a watch with its mainspring broken.

Such a case, of course, is hypothetical. Long before this finale could be reached other factors would intervene. The less firmly established concerns would be the first to feel the effect of the altered conditions, and would at once throw their men out to form the nucleus of another unemployed army. Uneconomic machinery would be the first to fail to yield a profit, and would be discarded, with the result of a general advance in the development of the means of production, and the displacement of still further workers, to swell the ranks of the unemployed.

These things show that an army of out-of-works is a necessity under capitalism, for it is only their depressing effect upon wages that assures to the possessing class that margin of profit for which alone they allow production to proceed ; show that the system contains within itself the means of replacing or adjusting that reserve army of labour to its needs, by the automatic contraction of production on the one hand, and the more rapid development of the means of production on the other, whenever the relative scarcity of labour-power advances wages ; show, therefore, that the foreigner does not enter essentially into the question of the prosperity or poverty of the natives, since only a continually and rapidly expanding market could secure them comparative prosperity—and the time for that is passed.

Let those who think otherwise ponder the happenings of the last half century or so. In how many countries have we seen the old order which supplied Britain with her uncontested markets give place to the new, which is snatching those markets away from her ? Within this period the growing might of capitalism has overthrown in Russia the feudal laws which bound the labourer to the soil, and has set him free for the slavery of the factory. Russia of to-day offers a remarkable parallel to the England of the time when her feudal institutions were breaking down. A land of vagabondage, with a decided gravitation towards the towns. In England enclosure and eviction : in Russia foreclosure and eviction. As the English peasants were driven from the land to the factory by the powerful nobles, so the Russian peasants are being driven from the land by the moneylender. And—a further parallel—as that old Roman soldier was taxed into the grip of usury, so is the Russian peasant constrained to borrow by taxes levied by a capitalist State.

What all this foretokens in the way of a giant competitor in tne markets of the East is easily imagined. And where, indeed, is the Eastern nation which is not itself on the threshold of capitalist production and the capitalist struggle for markets, for new outlets for those surplus products which represent in part the profits of the master class, and which must be disposed of before the cycle of production can repeat itself ?

Do you suppose the constitutional changes which have lately taken place in Turkey and Persia are merely affairs of kings ? No ! behind the veil the Socialist discerns the struggles of hampered capitalism to shake off the fetters of archaic traditions, customs and laws which bear with so heavy a hand upon its interests. Once free of these, and those countries rush headlong into the race to “dump,”

What England did in 250 years Japan has accomplished in 50, and what the latter country has achieved in half a century may scarce occupy the newer capitalist countries twenty years to encompass. The tale is taken up by our own colonies and dependencies, who are competing as sharply with the “motherland” in the world market as father and son, mother and daughter, are competing against each other for a mouthful of bread in the industrial scramble at home.

How long is it since a large East London jute works was closed down and some hundreds of girls thrown into the streets to exist as best they might, on the ground that the industry could not compete with foreign competition ? And what was the foreign competition ? The same employer had opened a jute factory in Calcutta, where labour-power is so much cheaper !

In China, we read, there is under experimental culture of cotton, “an area larger than that devoted to cotton in some of the cotton growing states of America.” Vague as the information is it may give us pause, for it is not probable that so much capital has been risked without a very fair prospect of success. And what is becoming of our cotton industry when China is pouring cotton into Japanese mills, and through them onto the broad bosom of the earth, which clasps most lovingly whichever is cheapest at the price ?

What, indeed, is becoming of the workers of the world when international capital (for capital is international, as may be seen by the disturbance in the stock and share market attending untoward events in distant parts of the globe) taps the great reservoir of labour-power represented by 500 millions of people who, it is said, can live each one on a handful of rice a day ?

Could your rifles and bayonets secure the livelihood of those jute-worker girls against the “foreign competition ” of their own master’s capital exploiting cheaper labour abroad ? Can your practice at targets and your marching and countermarching avail you against a competitor who beats you by cheaper living and cheaper labour ? Can all your desperate valour turn back the tide of economic evolution, or find outlet for your surplus products in a world market choked with the surplus produce of the countless millions of all the great nations of the earth ?

No, fellow citizens, the time of expanding markets is gone for ever. Every important nation on the globe now is developing its industrial system on the capitalist basis. This means that in every considerable country on the globe the workers are producing a profit, a surplus which their wages will not buy back, and which therefore remains to glut the market, to throttle production, to throw its producers out of employment until it finds an outlet. As machinery improves the ratio of this surplus which each worker can produce beyond that necessary to sustain him increases, while the ever sharpening competition for work prevents him forcing up his power of purchasing and consuming. Every producer, therefore, of whatever race, colour or sex, becomes an instrument for glutting the market and creating an industrial crisis, with all its attendant working-class misery. And the harder he works and the more he produces, the greater the harm he (or she) does.

The riddle has but one solution. The fullest attainment of “Protection” simply means each country its own sole consumer, each race dealing with its own surplus products ; the production of each nation throttled because its workers have produced too much. The logical fruition of “Free Trade” can be but a pooling of the trouble and the same result. Nor can arms avail. No might can make a market among nations of unemployed—and all nations are becoming nations of unemployed.

The line of opposing interests is no longer drawn between race and race, but between class and class. This is perceived directly it is realised that the wealth produced by the workers is divided into wages and profits, neither of which can be increased without diminishing the other. It is conceded with the admission that the more the workers produce the greater the mass of surplus products they heap up against themselves, for at once it becomes their interest to do as little as they can for their money, as it is the interest of the master class to make them do as much as they can. Once again the line of cleavage is shown, in a manner perhaps of deeper interest to you who are trained soldiers, in such incidents as the assistance rendered by the German rulers to the French master class against the workmen of Paris at the close of the Franco-German war, and the action of Sir Geo. White, the “hero” of Ladysmith, who after wards became the “hero” of Gibraltar, when, as Governor, he ordered the men under his command to perform the work of the coalporter strikers, and then compelled the Army bakers to blackleg the civilian bakers who struck to support the coal-porters. Finally, the ultimate purpose of all armed forces shows its sinister head in the part played by the Navy at Hull and Grimsby, and the Army at Peferloo, Featherstone and Belfast. “The armed forces of the nation exist . . to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers.”

THE SOLUTION. Production is for profit, and ceases when profit ceases—it must be for use, then it will continue as long as there are needs. Wage-workers produce more than they consume and the surplus heaps up against them, throwing them out of work—the wage system must go, then only what is necessary will be produced. The wage system is based on private ownership of the means of production, which drives non-possessors to work for wages—private ownership must give place to ownership by the community, then the whole social system will undergo a change. The labour market will vanish, and with it the relations between “master and man,” and the incongruity of people starving because they have produced too much. But there is much to be done before this can come to pass.

The people must be educated—a mental revolution ; the political machinery must be captured—a political revolution ; the battle must be fought out and society placed on a basis of common ownership—the Social Revolution.

Fellow Workers, that battle must be, is being fought out, and you must take part in it. We earnestly invite you to consider your position, and on which side your interests lie. Socialism stands for the emancipation of the workers of all lands, and those who are not with us are against us. How is it with you ?

A. E. J.

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